American officials have been in direct negotiations with officials of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), President Trump told reporters this week. South Korean media reports that the US is willing to open an embassy in Pyongyang in exchange for denuclearization. The report says the US embassy would come in addition to humanitarian aid and an economic boost.
The DPRK has already committed to negotiating the nuclear issue, according to US and South Korean officials. South Korean President Moon Jae In hopes for Washington to reciprocate by making security guarantees to the North and normalizing ties, according South Korean officials cited by the New York Times.
"I hear that the United States and North Korea are preparing for the summit with both will and sincerity, holding detailed negotiations over the time, venue and agenda," Moon's office reiterated in a statement. Moon is preparing for a North-South Korean summit April 27 that will serve as a roadmap for the US-DPRK summit to follow.
Currently, Moon's top national security adviser is in Washington meeting with his US counterpart, John Bolton, newly minted as Trump's adviser on national security.
The summit represents the most progress made in negotiations between the US and DPRK since the 1994 Agreed Framework between the United States of America and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, negotiated between then-US President Bill Clinton and then-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the sitting president's father. The deal was that North Korea would dismantle its nuclear power plants and the US would deliver light water reactor power plants in their place, normalize economic relations and deliver aid in the form of oil.
Kim even offered to end all of the country's programs associated with long and medium range ballistic missiles during post-framework negotiations, but the US failed to follow through on its side of the deal, never delivered any of the promised oil nor met its other commitments. What followed is called the Arduous March in North Korean history, a period of famine and economic distress following natural disasters for which DPRK received little foreign aid with which to cope, its primary benefactor, the Soviet Union, having recently dissolved itself. Estimates for starvation deaths between 1994 and 1998 range from 250,000 to 3 million.
By 2003, US President George W Bush, with John Bolton working in the administration's State Department as the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, a position that crafts US-UN policy, tore up the agreement over intelligence reports allegedly detailing North Korea's plan to attain the technology necessary for uranium enrichment. "This was the hammer I had been looking for to shatter the Agreed Framework," Bolton said afterward. He later pressured Bush to add the DPRK to the US' "Axis of Evil" list, alongside Iraq and Iran.
The Six-Party Talks, which began in 2003, fell through in the early stages of US President Barack Obama's tenure. North Korea withdrew from the negotiations in April 2009 after it was heavily sanctioned for launching a satellite, which the international community said was a veiled test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Afterwards, the US refused direct talks with the DPRK despite the president's campaign promises.
Obama's doctrine of "strategic patience" was premised on the assumption that North Korea would collapse and his administration put increased pressure on the country with an uptick in the frequency and scope of military drills in South Korea, sanctions, espionage and cyber warfare.
Despite the history of inconclusive negotiations, South Korea's new president remains optimistic about both South Korean and American summits with the North. "I am expecting the North Korea-United States summit to produce significant steps toward denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and establishing permanent peace here," Moon said.